Early hours night. A transparent time, when the worn out threads of the old day begin to thicken and twist into the pattern of the new.
A vast black brick of a church weighs down this corner of the neighbourhood. A street light blazes at its feet.
A man and a woman argue under it.
‘I can’t believe you’d do this,’ she cries. ‘I’ve only just met you and you’re saying that.’
The man shakes a mobile phone in the space between them, as if there’s something stuck in it.
The woman is wearing a red velvet pillbox hat. Her yellow hair curls out abundantly from the sides and tumbles down around her pale face. It’s like someone has dumped a bowl of noodles on her head, and the sauce has made her makeup run.
She snatches the phone from the man, and starts prodding out a number with her thumb.
‘I can’t believe you’d do this,’ she says.
The man turns to us as we approach. His chin is rough with stubble, his smile like the rip of Velcro.
‘Sorry about this guys,’ he says, nodding towards the woman. ‘I expect you’ve got better things to do.’
‘What’s going on?’
The man is dressed in ratted combat chic, a partisan of cool, with an expensively bad t-shirt and farm-grade studs in his bottom lip and eyebrow and ears.
‘She’s in a band. We met in a pub. She got upset. She took some Aspirin. Her boyfriend’s a drummer. He’s in Wales. Her parents are divorced.’ Then he seems to become bored with the sound of himself. He terminates the report with a shrug of his shoulders and a meagre upturn of his hands. ‘Like I said, I’m sure you’ve got better things to do.’
‘Hello? Hello?’ shouts the woman into the phone. ‘It’s me. I’m going to hospital. I’ve taken some pills.’ Her words give way to a convulsive sob; she just manages to get out the name of the hospital, then jabs the phone off and tosses it to the man, who catches it with a little bob of the knees and a curiously self-conscious flourish, like a bad juggler at a children’s party.
‘You’re welcome,’ he says. And pops the phone in his pocket.